Nazareth mourns loss of longtime teacher
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:25AM
Following a five-day intensive search, the body of Nazareth Academy social studies teacher John Michalek was recovered at 10:45 a.m. Monday from Loon Lake near Antioch after he was reported in distress June 28 while swimming near his pontoon boat.
Antioch Fire Chief John Nixon said the recovery effort include teams of divers, specialized sonar equipment, two helicopter runs with infrared devices and several highly trained dogs used to locate cadavers.
The body of the man reported in distress at 2:13 p.m. June 28 was located 30 feet below the surface and about 100 yards east of where he was last seen, Nixon said. Underwater currents from a creek feed into the two sister lakes, and recovery efforts centered in the west lake, the chief said.
“This morning, we called the sonar team back, and within three hours, we had a very reliable target on the image screen,” he said. “Once it was confirmed that it was possibly a human, we sent the divers down for a brief search.”
Nixon said the long search was hampered by thick weeds and various depths of the lake.
“Sonar in an open area is very effective, but when you get into a weed bed, it’s not,” he said.
“It’s been a very stressful time for the family. They’re in day 5 of this ordeal,” Nixon said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it was for them, and we’re happy to have brought them closure.”
Calls and e-mails are pouring into Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park from students, alumni and faculty saddened by the loss of Michalek of Berwyn.
“It’s a terrible time for us. Everyone just adored John,” said Principal Deborah Tracy. “He had just celebrated his 35th anniversary in the social studies department.
“He was just a wonderful man who loved teaching. He had an incredible way of making classroom material very relevant,” said Tracy, a former student of Michalek. “I loved going to his class, and I learned a lot while I was there.”
Nazareth Academy will hold a memorial prayer service at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Congregation of St. Joseph Chapel, 1515 W. Ogden Ave., LaGrange Park.
Tracy said Michalek was looking forward to spending the summer at Lake Loon on his pontoon boat.
“He loved that lake. The stories of the lake and the pontoon were a close second to his love for teaching,” Tracy said.
In addition to serving as chairman of the department at one time, Michalek was a mentor to new teachers and inspired a number of former students to enter the profession.
“He was one of the teachers I admired greatly when I was here,” the principal said. “Along with several others, he is one of the people I hoped to be like when I was first teaching.”
Michalek was inducted into Nazareth’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, recognizing his many contributions as varsity girls’ softball coach and a basketball coach.
Tracy said the school community wants to respect the family’s wishes and awaits funeral arrangements.
“He ran the gamut over the generations,” Tracy said. “He was just going to be part time this next school year, so he could spend more time at the lake. It’s very said he didn’t get that chance.”